Saturday, April 28, 2012

Punish the monkey

You may not have noticed, but this week our government became more accountable.  Is that a good thing?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines accountability thusly:
...the quality or state of being accountable, liable or answerable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions <public officials lacking accountability>...
Not bad objectives for public institutions, but if you are a human being, specifically an employee, these are not terribly positive, empowering or motivating definitions.  All of the responsibility devolves to them.

Perhaps that's why the "A" word has employees rolling their eyes, running for cover, or heading for the exit:  many view accountability as just another modern, Newspeak business term for blaming, finger-pointing and butt-covering.  Punishment, in other words.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Is it safe?

Growth is always a hot topic at the monthly TAB meetings I facilitate:  strategies, plans, tactics, obstacles, wins, losses, etc.

Most of our businesses are doing well, but some have seen their top lines flatten and a very few have experienced sales declines.

Bottom line-wise, our business owners have seen their operating costs escalate.  The cost of goods, taxes, health care, energy, professional services have all been rising. Most have been very good at maintaining their margins by controlling their variable expenses.

But nipping and tucking only gets you so far, as we are finding out in the debate over growth versus austerity at the national and international level.  You can't cut your way to growth over the long term.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Beneath the waterline

As you may have heard if you weren't stranded on an ice floe, the supposedly unsinkable Titanic went down in the North Atlantic exactly 100 years ago this weekend.

It remains an epochal event; one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century.  At the time, it was “unthinkable,” "impossible."  A black swan. 

Until the details emerged.  With the benefit of hindsight, it all seemed inevitable:  corners cut, disbelief suspended, expert opinions ignored.  This is partly why Titanic has transcended the literal and become metaphor for commercial hubris, institutional blindness and human fallibility (and more, to some.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Empowering thoughts

People start their own business for a number of reasons -- some to follow a passion, some always dreamed of being their own boss, while others were in search of flexibility that they didn’t find in larger organizations. Those who grow beyond solo entrepreneurship will quickly find out that getting the right people on the bus is even more important when you’re driving a small scale version. When on-boarding a new employee, consider this:
“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” (Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why.)
Ensuring that you find people who believe what you believe requires that you have a clearly defined vision [see this earlier post]. You also need to choose those who are able to multi-task and not worry so much about staying in the confines of their role, and to “jump out of their seat” when needed. To see what a fully-engaged employee looks like, check out Jeff Haden's 8 Qualities of Remarkable Employees.